I thought I would ask one of my students to write about his take on the SAT and ACT. This essay is purely from his uncensored, and may I add, very brilliant perspective. FYI: He was a candidate to take the SAT and ACT and improved his scores on both not only because he was bright, but primarily because he put in the necessary effort and time.Here’s his very interesting take on why he prefers the SAT over the ACT…
It’s pretty obvious that the SAT and ACT test you in different ways, and the fact that some people score higher on one test versus the other is not a reflection of how innately hard the test is, but rather a combination of how much work one puts in towards prepping (which makes sense) and how exactly the different tests… test. Allow me to explain.
Most people would look at an ACT reading question, compare it to an SAT reading question, and then correctly conclude that the ACT question is easier. It’s then perfectly logical to assume that the ACT reading section is easier than the SAT reading section.
But this is where things get hairy.
Yes, individual questions on the ACT in general are far “easier” than individual questions on the SAT, but I have found that this comes at a price: one can “game” the SAT by learning how to take that test (and consequently deconstruct the harder questions to make them easier) via effective studying, whereas the ACT is not nearly as “game”-able. In my mind, a student’s scoring ceiling is locked at his or her already acquired intelligence for the ACT because that test is designed much simpler. (The only exception is the science section on the ACT which is very easy to game if you have a clever enough tutor).
Some may see this ability to improve one’s score as a design flaw in the SAT, but I see it as the SAT’s greatest merit: one is rewarded for the amount of work he puts into it, and I have seen those results first-hand. Contrastly, I have not seen spectacular improvements in my ACT scores from taking practice test after practice test.
Put frankly, it is much harder to score higher than your intelligence level on the ACT than the SAT. So, if you have a tutor, I’d recommend preparing for the SAT, whereas if you don’t have a tutor OR you don’t have the patience to take practice test after practice test, I’d recommend taking the ACT.
My two cents about raising your score on either test, whichever one you decide to take, is to read classical literature, the esoteric/cryptic classics (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a good place to start), because if you can understand (and stay awake for) the material in that book and similar books, then you are in great shape for handling dry ACT passages and confusing SAT passages.
I also highly recommend taking a quality test prep program such as Breakthrough Test Prep’s. They really know how to personalize the program to maximize your potential, build on your strengths, and give you the extra time, attention and resources to ensure your success.
Good luck and happy testing.
By a slightly cynical Richard Montgomery IB student
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